Thinking back to February 2020, the world now feels like a very different place. Before the pandemic, we would open our doors every day at Sanctus and be greeted by a group of individuals waiting to come into the warmth of our café. The building always filled up quickly with every seat taken. Lists of names would be signed up to our Hub support sessions and with the multiple different agencies who also used our meeting rooms to offer their services. Our new training room was growing in popularity and we were reporting some significant successes. As the need was increasing, we knew it wouldn’t be long before we had outgrown our building.

Then in March 2020, the pandemic hit and we found ourselves supporting many vulnerable people who simply had nowhere to turn, sources of food had ceased, access to support had ended, many were isolated and unaware of what was happening. The impact of empty streets and closed shops greatly affected the mental health of these vulnerable individuals. Witnessing the struggles that our services users were enduring meant that closing down was never an option for Sanctus and our team worked tirelessly, forever adapting to changes, to keep our services going every day of the pandemic. We were the consistent in the chaos and because of that we were able to help many people.

We have many stories from the pandemic that will live in the history of the charity forever and will remain in the memories of all involved. However, it’s time to plan for the post pandemic world. Before and during COVID, there was and is a huge demand on our café and Hub services as we are the only day centre in Chelmsford and surrounding areas. These services will soon become overwhelmed based on the mental, social and financial impact of the pandemic. For this reason, we are moving to a new building (30-32 Broomfield Road, Chelmsford, CM1 1SW) that just happens to be next door to the existing building.

It is significantly larger with much more seating, bigger kitchens, extensive storage and the top two floors allows a lot more room for Hub support sessions and training, as well as facilities for other external agencies to deliver their services. Our service users are familiar with our location, so the move will retain those clients that we already help, whilst the increased size and service range will encourage new people to attend. Our building will be at the heart of the support system currently being developed in Chelmsford and will be utilised by other external support services. The new building can be the catalyst required to create the multi-organisational approach to tacking homelessness and other vulnerabilities. Our extended services will include more work with those suffering from social isolation, mental health and domestic abuse through in-house and externally integrated services.

homeless charity

The new building also allows us to be more creative with the services we offer, and we have ambitious plans! The move allows us to begin exploring how we can feed and support other vulnerable groups and will form a huge part in the recovery programme to support individuals who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

If you are local to us, Sanctus is a service that helps the vulnerable people you see every day on the street that so many people wonder how they can help. This service is also openly acknowledged as significantly reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. It is a service that saves lives. If you are from further afield, part of our expansion plan is to launch our online Hub. The experience of our team will be captured online and used to support people who are more remote to us. It will offer advice for people who want to help someone that they are aware of as being homeless and vulnerable and it will be there to support other charities who are trying to establish themselves and grow.

Sanctus is an independently run charity that operates based on support from businesses, individuals, sponsored events, charitable trusts, successful bids and support from statutory bodies. Without donations, Sanctus would not be able to open. We need funds to support the operation of the new premises that will be providing some essential services. This is a massive step for the charity and for Chelmsford, and we need as much support as possible. If you can give, we would be extremely grateful.